When we lived in Doha we brunched a lot, on reflection maybe we brunched too muchif that’s possible! In Cairo we didn’t brunch at all,yeswe had lunch out on a Friday usually at ourfavourite place but it wasn’t ‘brunch’. We’venow been in Shenzhen for 3 monthsand things are finally settling down so we decided it was time to check out the brunch offerings near where we live inFutian.
My initial search for a weekend brunch was pretty disappointing, I messaged a few hotels and they didn’t get back to me.Thisis something I find really bizarre,hotels promoting their restaurants but not responding to inquiries. Anyway, as I was just about to give up,the Four Seasons shared some of their restaurant detailsonlineand responded to my brunch inquiry within just a couple of minutes. Topjob FS Shenzhen! They advised me to buy brunch via We Chat as it would give me a pretty significant discount paying 498RMB per person(for those of you who like a price comparison that’s about254QR/56GBP so slightly less than theprices we used to pay in the Middle East).Saturday arrived and so did theeternal brunch question – breakfast or no breakfast? We opted for no breakfast which was a wise decision. After a quick selfie weDidi’dto the Four Seasons and headed upstairs to Foo Restaurant.
It definitely had the ‘Four Seasons feel’. From the décor in muted browns, grey and cream, the lovely art work and flowers to the smiley, welcoming staff. I had requested a quiet table and we were given a recessed booth which was perfect.
The staff pointed out the various food sections – seafood, a live noodle station, outside BBQ, sushi and sashimi, eastern and western dishes, the dessert section and an icecream stand. We placed our drinks order and immediately headed for the seafood.
There was an array of lobster, crab,mussles, and prawns complimented by a selection of salads.
After about 30 minutes of trying to get as much meat as I could out of 1 crab leg Greg commented that I had lost my brunch strategy; I was out of practice and he was right. The lunchtime sitting is 2hr 30min, I hadn’t maximized my eating potential. Sticking with seafood we headed to the sushi and sashimi kitchen. The selection was fairly small butwow, itwas such good quality,especially the salmon sashimi. Greg loved theoctopusbut I wasn’t convinced. I had an unfortunate incident with an octopus in Spain which has kind of put me off them.
Greg then decided to try the live noodle station – this is where I think his brunch strategy went wrong. In my opinion we can get noodles anywhere inFutianand I make them at home all the time,plus they are really filling. They weretastyand the serving was huge but he also agreed that it was too early to becarbingup.
Meanwhile I was busy tucking into freshoysters which had been brought over to our table. Luckily for me Greg isn’t a big oysterfanso I got the serving to myself. With a lovely glass of whitewinewe weredefinitely enjoying this brunch.
Half way through the noodle eating a trolley with different cuts of beef arrived! I am not sure what we triedas our Mandarin isn’t that great yet but it was so tender and juicy with a lovely tangy BBQ sauce. Greg asked her to comebackso he could have seconds but we never saw her againmuch to his disappointment!
By now we were getting full and had to be more selective in ourfood choices. I had eyed up a delicious lookingmediterranenmackerel dish and Greg fancied the BBQ. The mackerel tasted every bit as good as it looked.
The BBQ outside offered meat, fish and vegetables cooked over Jack Daniels infused chips. Cooked to orderGreg chose a rack of lamb ribs, thefat had been rendered down until it was crispy and the lamb was a little pink with a hint of JD smokiness.
With our attention turning to dessert (mainly for research purposes you understand) we were given a complimentary red velvet cake which is one of the hotels signature dishes. I pretty much demolished that while Greg tried out the macrons and eclairs. By now we were absolutely full and a bit tipsy.
The Four Seasons was a greatintroductionto brunch in China and I am lookingforwardto trying out otherplaces so I can make some comparisonsand get my brunch strategy back. For me it was exactly the standard and quality I have come to love and expect from the Four Seasons brand both in terms of the quality of the food,abienceand service.No, itdidn’t have thetraditional Middle East Friday brunch buzz, there were no fishbowls or peg games, it is more relaxed and refined than many brunches I have been to but that’s fine with me.
Whattoexpect: For Friday dinner, Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner and Sunday lunch Foo restaurant offers a buffet priced 588 + 15% service charge and is inclusive of free flow house wines, Prosecco, beer, juices, coffee and teas. Children aged 5 and below eat free and 6-12yrs receive a 50% discount. There is a seperate children’s area where they have their own buffet and entertainment including a clown! The dress code is smart casual and you can expectfriendly, efficient service and an array of top qualitydishes.
Greg and I sat in a beautiful restaurant in Greece and over a cold beer shook hands on a decision that would shape the next year of our lives. We decided to end our contract early and leave Egypt. In some ways it was the easiest decision to make, in other ways it was the hardest.
I particularly had found Egypt very difficult. I can’t even put my finger on what I found challenging other than ‘everything’. It had all come to a head before the summer holidays when I sat with silent tears streaming down my face at the thought of staying another year to see out our contract. Greg would have stayed but he could not cope with how upset (and to be honest quite depressed) I was and we decided that at the end of the day our happiness is everything. When we returned to Cairo at the end of the summer we resigned our positions for the end of autumn term. It was like a weight had been lifted off our shoulders, but then came the big questions; What would we do? Where would we live? Would we survive the cold? Should I buy a onesie? What about the dog?
We decided that Dyson would fly back to the UK before us and our family in Liverpool would care for him until we arrived. We threw him an amazing party (at which he dug himself a hole and laid in it all night ignoring everyone) then, with the help of a pet relocator, he flew from Cairo to Heathrow.
November – December 2018
Over the next couple of months we tried to fit in as much sightseeing as we could, got ourselves organized and decided we wouldn’t look for a job with a January start. We chose instead to take some time out and travel, rest and enjoy life and look for something for September 2019. We held our leaving party on a private yacht and I wrote a blogged for what was to be last time until this post almost a year later. Greg activated his Search Associates account so he could keep an eye on jobs and I occasionally looked at TES but that’s as far as it went.
We arrived back in the UK just before Christmas after a delay of 8hrs, Egypt really didn’t want us to go! Us and our 8 bags were reunited with Dy in Liverpool where we also welcomed in the new year before we headed up to the North East to see my family.
Greg signed up for the Search Associate job fair in London so we decided to make a holiday of it. The fair was very disappointing, there wasn’t really any management positions available for Greg so after just 1 day he withdrew. We decided we would stay in London and enjoy the tourist attractions and restaurants.
We stayed at the Travelodge in Covent Garden as we find the location really convenient and the prices for central London reasonable. They certainly aren’t the most luxurious of rooms but they are comfortable and clean. Out of the places we eat in London I’d really recommend Launceston Place and Dishoom, we both enjoyed both our meals there. I was disappointed with Plum and Spilt Milk a restaurant I have wanted to go to for ages. The service was quite ‘cold’ and the food didn’t live up to my expectations. It wasn’t a bad meal but I think I’d built it up in my mind to be so much more.
We spent most of February up in the North East eating comfort food, going for wintry walks along the beach, taking advantage of pavements.
We spent a lovely weekend in York catching up with friends and I went to visit my brother and his family who I hadn’t seen for 4 years.
Soon our attention turned to travel and we kept going back and forth with where we should go. First we chose Sri Lanka, then the USA then Europe. Eventually we decided on a train trip around Europe so we bought Euro Rail passes and started to plan out a rough route. Greg started to fill in some job applications and two schools really caught our attention – one in Lebanon and one in China. In all honesty I’d pretty much rejected China, I didn’t think it was somewhere I wanted to live and I’d heard less than wonderful reports about weather, pollution, traffic and schools. I kind of dismissed it but at the same time I had a gut feeling about that school in China….!
I flew to the UAE for a week to finish my final stage of training to be a school inspector for British schools. It was a really interesting week and I loved being back the Middle East. Getting searched by security when I arrived back in Manchester wasn’t so much fun. Greg had inadvertently bought me flu medication which had a derivative of cocaine in it and the sniffer dogs did their jobs well! We had our Eurostar tickets booked for mid March and Greg was interviewed again for a position at the China school which went very well. The day before we caught the train to Bruges we both accepted jobs in Shenzhen so we went away knowing we had secured jobs for September. We had done quite a bit of research into Shenzhen and it seemed like a good fit for us. The tropical climate, proximity to the sea, lots of green space, good international airports, excellent transport infrastructure and its reputation as a young, tech center appealed to us. The package from the school was also excellent with proper work visas and HR support.
March – May 2019
We spent 8 weeks traveling Europe by train; what an incredible experience. We didn’t really have a set itinerary or budget, just places we’d always wanted to go with places that sounded interesting thrown in. In the 8 weeks we traveled to Bruges, Antwerp, Dresden, Munich, Zurich, Vienna, Nice, Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Seville *, Valencia and Paris.
We both celebrated our birthdays when we were away, mine in Dresden and Greg in Monaco (Monte Carlo casino to be precise!). Our trip was like a mini retirement and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Our highlights were the Green Vault in Dresden which was just jaw droppingly beautiful, the somber bleakness of Dachau, the scenery of the Bernina Express, the stunning architecture of the Familia Sagrada and the fun vibe of Sitges. Not to forget the food. All the food!
Pintxos in Sitges
* Greg didn’t enjoy Seville quite as much. After complaining of stomach ache, which I dismissed and left him to go shopping, he was admitted to hospital and within 12hrs had his appendix removed. This slightly messed up our travel plans as we had to skip Granada and Benidorm whilst he recovered from his operation. Luckily our travel insurance covered everything and helped us with all our medical, hotel and transport arrangements. I think Greg was just pleased we hadn’t gone to Sri Lanka as we’d originally planned!
When we arrived back to the UK our visas application process for China began in earnest. I am not going to exaggerate but getting this visa was so incredibly stressful and time consuming. If you’re planning on working in China start your application early and check everything, then check again. Photocopy everything and photocopy it again. Take photos of everything and photograph them again. Literally blood, sweat and tears went into those visa applications and bless Greg for being so organized and thorough for getting us both through the process. I don’t think when we started the application we expected to ‘milk’ blood from each other but hey, that’s what happened and it is as weird as it sounds.
At this point the realization that we didn’t have long left in the UK hit home. We had a few weekends away visiting friends and catching up with people and 2 bigger holidays.
We had a lovely week in Cornwall with Greg’s family staying in a wonderful house right on the beach. I’ve never been to Cornwall before so it was nice to see the places that Greg told me about, the places he spent his holidays as a child.
We also went over to the Lake District to stay at my sisters caravan for a couple of weeks. The weather was wonderful and we enjoyed walks, pubs and Greg’s recent obsession with tattoos!
We started packing and sifting through all the various boxes of our belonging we have scattered across the country including visiting our storage container in Sheffield. When we left the UK for Qatar in 2014 we put the contents of our house which we had sold into storage. It has now been sat there for 5years and we really need to make a decision what to do with it! It was odd to discover we have had an ironing board in storage for the last 5 years when I don’t even remember owning an iron!! Seriously, the things we kept.
We received the news that our visa application had been successful and we booked our flights for the end of the month. We packed and unpacked. Wrote lists, ticked things off, started new lists and repacked. Greg had a parcel arrive from amazon everyday and then he repacked and repacked again when another parcel came. Then, with one week to go we headed back to Liverpool for Greg’s graduation. In the midst of all this madness for the last 3 years he had been studying for a Masters. Despite moving countries, jobs and schools he had succeeded in achieving an MA in Educational Leadership and we had a fantastic day celebrating his awesomeness.
Then the day arrived. We squeezed the last of our bits and pieces into 8 cases, said goodbye to our families and on July 29th we flew to Shenzhen ready to start the next chapter of our lives.
Going to the seaside in January may sound like a crazy idea but I assured myself that in Egypt it hardly ever rains so I went ahead and clicked ‘reserve room’. I was soon proven completely wrong……
Ain Sokhna is about a 90 minute drive east of Cairo and is a popular seaside destination for those wanting to escape the city. We had a long weekend and, after much research, opted for the Movenpick located right between the mountains and Red Sea.
We arrived after a pretty daunting journey (I’m sure we weren’t traveling on an official road for some it) at about 8pm and, after checking in, arrived at our room – except it wasn’t the room we booked. It didn’t have a sofa, bath or a double bed so after a quick call to reception, apparently they thought we’d like this room better, we were told we could move rooms after dinner. Not quite the relaxing start we’d hoped for. We booked our room on a half board basis so our rate included breakfast and dinner* with both served in the Cataplana restaurant. This is the hotels main restaurant and has several ‘overspill rooms’ a conservatory, terrace plus the primary dining area. Throughout our stay the restaurant was extremely busy, the staff were efficient at clearing spaces and replenishing cutlery but it was a bit of a scrum at times especially at breakfast. However, this was understandable due to the adverse weather which meant the outdoor terrace couldn’t be used.
After dinner we went to reception and we were allocated our new room, a deluxe double with garden views. The room was a decent size with lots of storage space, fridge, tea/coffee facilities, safe, large bathroom and a lovely balcony overlooking the grounds. It was fairly obvious the room wasn’t ready to be occupied. It was quite dusty, there was an empty water bottle in the drawer and the safe wasn’t working. However, we were tired and we decided to report these issues the next morning.
We awoke to a stunning view of the mountains and sea, the landscaping of the hotel has been very well thought out; it was lovely. The less said about the weather the better!
About 9am we headed down for breakfast and it was packed! Each of the ‘overspill’ rooms were in use but the staff quickly found us a table and we enjoyed cooked to order omelette, fresh fruit, muesli and pastries. We then wandered through the grounds to check out the beach and other facilities.
Inside the main building there are a couple of shops selling clothes, jewelry and souvenirs and an ATM. Also, just across from reception, there is a bar with TV screens, pool table, comfy sofas and huge windows allowing in lots of natural light. Steps lead to lower ground floor which is where the spa well equipped Gym is located.
My favourite part of the hotel were the grounds, credit to the staff for keeping them immaculate. The little river meanders from the hotel to the beach ending in a small lake and is cross-crossed with small bridges and a paved walkway. If you want direct access to the grounds I suggest you book a room on the ground floor with a terrace.
Eventually you arrive at the sea-shore. The beach is to the right, a long strip of golden sand with sun beds and umbrellas. From here you can also book pedlos, kayaks and go on inflatable rides. The entertainment team were also organizing beach volley ball and yoga here. The water is a lovely turquoise, very clear and perfect for snorkeling and diving in warmer months.
The pool is also well designed, it’s a really good size and surrounded by sun beds and umbrellas. The pool is not heated though and it was freezing so we weren’t able to use it!
To the left there is a El Gezirah cafe with a large terrace overlooking the beach. Admittedly there is also a view of the industrial site from this side which isn’t quite so picturesque but growing up in Teesside it was a reminder of home! The cafe serves alcohol and non alcoholic drinks, food, shisha and ice cream. There’s also a couple of hammocks to lounge around in.
We had a quick chat at reception to ask them to fix our safe and give the room a thorough clean. Within minutes maintenance arrived to reset the safe but unfortunately during our stay the room wasn’t particularly well cleaned. I know that tourism numbers are down and if hotels aren’t bringing in revenue then it’s difficult to upgrade items but small things can be fixed. For example the wardrobe door needed fixing, the hinge on the mini bar was broken, the bath needed a proper clean, the glass on the outside table wasn’t attached to the table – all of these little things could be addressed through a maintenance program. I wouldn’t say that these things particularly effected our stay but it just gives a general poor impression.
Dinner each night was fairly good. A selection of hot and cold buffet items, an outside barbecue, desserts and cheeses. The roast on the last night was particularly tasty and the staff were helpful and friendly.
The hotel is definitely family friendly with an entertainment team putting on activities and shows. There is also a children’s playground and outdoor table tennis.
On an evening the children’s entertainment took place in the bar, so unfortunately there was nowhere for us to relax after dinner and have a couple of drinks although I guess normally these activities would be outside. The ‘over 18’ rule was not applied to the bar. Throughout the day there were children in there unsupervised which was a bit frustrating, but I guess if you have children and you want a drink it would be fine. It was also, like many places in Egypt, very smoky. Nevertheless we enjoyed sitting here, playing pool and cards with friends.
The room service we ordered was fast and sensibly priced, the burger came within about 20 minutes and was priced at 90LE. I was hugely impressed that they brought me fresh milk for tea with no fuss and no charge, small things that matter but which are overlooked! The food in Zen bar again was good although the menu is quite limited. I felt the pricing of drinks and shisha was very reasonable for a hotel with soft drinks costing about 25LE and beer about 70LE. I also liked the fact that all priced included tax so what you saw was what you paid.
On our last day the sun eventually shone, it was beautiful. We managed to go for a paddle and have one last drink before heading back to Cairo.
So overall I’d go to the Movenpick for;
Beautiful scenery and lovely grounds
Spacious, well equipped room
Range of activities especially for families
Clear sea water and large pool / beach
Friendly, helpful staff
I think our stay could be even better if;
Rooms were maintained better
The over 18 policy was enforced in Zen bar
Would we go back? To Sokhna – Yes! To the Movenpick- probably! We know what to expect and it would be even more enjoyable in nice weather. If you book this thinking of a usual seaside hotel property in Egypt / Turkey you won’t be disappointed.
Have you been to Sokhna or the Movenpick? What did you think?
*no drinks at all are included at dinner, only food. Tea/coffee and juice is included at breakfast*
If someone had told me in December 2016 the following year we’d be living in a new country, with new jobs I don’t think I’d have quite believed them. At that point we weren’t sure if we were leaving Qatar and Egypt wasn’t even on our radar. So, here we are December 2017 and I’m writing this sat in my little garden in New Cairo, proof that you should always expect the unexpected……Looking back 2017 has been a funny, challenging, exciting, crazy year. If you ever want any tips on how you should relocate to a new country feel free to DM me but I’ll give you some tips.
Try not to move to a country which has cut diplomatic ties with the country you’re moving from. It means you, your husband, your dog and your shipping can’t get there directly!
Try to avoid moving during Eid (especially when moving from and to a Muslim country).
Make sure the Air B n B you’re going to stay in when you arrive actually exists.
Don’t put your dog on a flight with a connecting flight – you may panic when you’re told he missed his flight in Jordan.
Don’t cry in the car of an estate agent you’ve only just met.
Don’t let your dog meet the ‘friendly’ cat which repeatedly will attack him until he’s so scratched you have to put him in a T-shirt as you still haven’t found a vet.
Now the dust has settled and I can just about laugh at how stressful the move was, here are 2017’s highlights.
Once we knew we were leaving Qatar we decided to spend the Easter holidays there completing our bucket list. One of our most memorable parts of the holiday was our stay at Regency Sealine Camp about 1hr south of Doha. A luxury camp right on the seashore we loved how relaxing it was, the tents were incredibly comfortable and the sea was wonderfully clear. If you read my post you’ll know our last morning was a bit of a let down, but I would have loved to go back and stay there again. I definitely recommend a visit here, it’s family friendly too.
The second hotel stay to mention was my solo staycation at the Kempinski Royal Maxim Palace, New Cairo. I’d had a tough couple of weeks and my stay here gave me some much-needed ‘me time’. I loved the sleek design of my room and the huge pool, plus it does a great staycation rate. I recently went back for a massage and made use of the indoor spa facilities which were very good.
One thing I miss desperately about Doha is having so many bars, restaurants and cafes on our doorstep. Cairo has been better for our waistlines and wallets, but I have found it hard to find consistently good places. I miss having the Marriott Marquis literally over the road for breakfast at Quickbites and sliders at Champions. On reflection, one of my most memorable meals of 2017 was at New York Steakhouse’s during their ‘chocolate menu experience’ with this venison dish. Their Ramadan tent was fabulous too.
In Cairo I’m so happy to have found Kazoku. Offering modern Asian food we’ve been several times on a Friday afternoon and never been disappointed with the service or the food. If you haven’t been you’re definitely missing out!
We also found Casper & Gambini’s is consistent and offers a wide-ranging menu. We often pop into the one at Cairo Festival City for brunch.
Pub wise we like to go to the Tap East in New Cairo for food and drinks. I think we’ll make more of an effort to go and listen to some live music here next year.
My New Year resolution for 2017 was to get more exercise and I started by walking 10,000 steps every day. This was mostly done walking along the corniche every afternoon with my headphones in listening to podcasts. I love being by the water and every day I noticed something different and enjoyed watching the weather and landscape change. Since moving to Cairo I’ve joined Fibers Gym but some of the classes have been a bit disappointing, hopefully they’ll improve in 2018.
I have loved having a garden and seeing Dyson playing on the green spaces that we have where we live, it’s so pretty. He’s such a good dog and manages so well moving from country to country. After saying goodbye to his Doha dog friends he’s made a new friend, our neighbors dog Zoe!
One thing I will never forget was the first time we saw the pyramids. A couple of weeks after moving we were driving around on a mission and trying to work out which direction the pyramids were in. We thought they were miles away but, literally seconds after discussing it, we drove up a flyover and, as we turned a corner, they were there in front of us. I nearly crashed! On our official tour there recently we were blown away by how big the pyramids actually are and the skill and ingenuity that went into building them. I think what I love even more is that there are still so many unknowns and so much still to be discovered.
I enjoy being by the water and one evening I went on a boat trip along the Nile. It was so special sailing along, listening to the call to prayer, watching the sunset and the realization I live in Cairo! It’s a lovely way to spend an evening.
It’s strange looking back at 2017, it feels like we’ve lived two separate lives this year – the familiarity of Qatar and the brand new experiences of Egypt. For us 2018 is going to be an exciting year. I turn the big 40, we have an epic summer trip planned and we are looking forward to exploring more of Egypt and Africa. Thank you to everyone who had read my blog, followed me on social media, messaged me with advice and tips – it really is appreciated. I wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and family and friends.